‘Hope’ offers more than ‘lady luck,’ for ‘Sin City’
Las Vegas pastor to speak at MBC annual meeting
JEFFERSON CITY—Vance Pitman has seen Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas come a long way from the day in February 2001 when 18 adults met in his home.
“We tell everybody that we’ve ridden a wave of God’s favor,” said Pitman, 36. “God’s just been overwhelmingly good to us.”
Pitman will deliver the final message of the Tuesday afternoon session of the 173rd annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention at around 3:40 p.m. Oct. 30 at Tan-Tar-A, Osage Beach.
A Southern Baptist preacher who comes from a traditional upbringing in the Southeast (particularly in Alabama and Georgia), Pitman knows all about how Southern culture is intertwined with the denomination. But God had him plant a church in “Sin City,” which generally is not associated with too many images of fried chicken, NASCAR and grits.
“In Alabama, people were doing a lot of the same things they did in Las Vegas,” Pitman said. “They just didn’t tell anybody. The difference about Las Vegas is people are open about what they do. There’s no pretense.”
Launched out of mission-minded First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., it’s almost as if the Las Vegas congregation chose the perfect name. Hope Baptist Church has become a vital messenger for Christ in a land of vices where gambling pretends to be king.
“When we first started, we used to say a lot, ‘It’s Hope Baptist Church, where hope is more than a chance,’” Pitman said. “It really is. People come here and put a lot of trust in chance, but the reality is, the hope that we have through the person of Jesus Christ is not a chance. It’s the real deal. It’s the truth, and it will set you free. And we’ve seen a lot of people be set free.”
Legalized prostitution, for example, has a stronghold in Las Vegas, but Hope has seen people saved out of that industry. Those caught up in gambling addictions and drug addictions also have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, along with former homosexuals. They’ve come by the droves; now they’re church members.
“Paul said, ‘Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,’” Pitman said. “The reality is, the darker the darkness, the brighter the light. And that’s the way it is here in Vegas.
“It really has never been a situation where we saw 500 come through the door. It was just we always had more the next month than we had the month before. God’s just been really gracious to us. We’ve seen a lot of people come to Christ.”
For example, on the weekend of Sept. 23, the church saw 111 people make professions of faith.
Pitman maintains close ties with Pastor Johnny Hunt of the mother church, speaking four times at Woodstock’s missions conference Sept. 26. Hope and First Woodstock are now to the point where they push each other, with the six-year-old Las Vegas church planting three churches overseas and eying unreached people groups in China and the Middle East.
“We’re two churches that partner together for the expansion of God’s kingdom,” Pitman said.
As he speaks to Missouri Baptists, he hopes to communicate a sense of who his flock in Las Vegas really is. The words he comes up with to describe them are pure, raw and refreshing. He finds the blend exhilarating.
“It’s very pure, it’s very raw, but it is extremely refreshing, because it’s just very honest,” Pitman said.